25 to Go: Our energy future is green, but not with the GOP in charge

One way you know the current incarnation of the Republican Party is just plain nuts comes when they continue to complain about the stimulus package passed by Democrats and Obama in 2009. One thing that bill did and continues to do, is to greatly increase our investment in clean energy production, which is the future. The issue is climate change, but it’s also everyday life. We need energy; there is no denying it. And the reality is, we will never, ever meet our needs through drilling and fracking everywhere we can.

Oil is not the future, it’s the past. And it’s not the past just because gasoline is permanently more than $3 per gallon, and is due to go to $5 per gallon within a decade. One major reason fossil fuels are the past is because more people are using more energy, and we can’t survive in a world in which 7 billion people drive internal combustion engines, and use fossil fuels to generate the electricity we need. We have to figure out how to balance our production and use of energy with the need for clean air, wholesome, nutritious food and a clean and a plentiful supply of water.

Because everything in nature works in harmony, we have to produce what we need, while disturbing as little of the natural world as possible. It doesn’t whether you “believe” in climate change or not. It doesn’t matter how many jobs, companies and countries are “dependent” on the extraction of fossil fuels for their economic needs. This is about nothing less than the survival of the human race.

Let’s be clear. We won’t kill the planet; it’s pretty resilient, and will probably survive whatever we manage to do to it. But the survival of the human species depends greatly upon the health of the planet. And the way we preserve the technological gains we have made in recent generations and still preserve the natural world, is to change our approach to energy production. That requires acceptance of three basic concepts.

  • First, we must stop using natural resources as if they belong to humans alone. The Earth belongs to every plant and animal species, not just humans.
  • Second, we have to learn to do as much as we can with as little energy as possible. Conservation makes everything else easier.
  • And third, we have to learn to use the natural energy around us as much as possible, and stop burning things. We’ve had solar, wind, geothermal and tidal power for billions of years, with no pollution; since we started burning things for fuel, we may have changed the climate, and put everyone at risk. We need to learn to harness the natural energy around us, and that will require time and money.

If you think about it, one potential future of energy usage is actually right here, on your computer. The laptop I use, for example, has a relatively small battery, which will allow the computer to fully function for almost 8 hours; four hours if I use it as a TV. At the same time, it will fully charge my smartphone and my tablet, and run my scanner. Over the last decade, batteries and computers have become more efficient, to the point that computers can perform ten times as many operations as ten years ago, while using less than half the energy. That is our future. Our light bulbs give us the same light we had before, on one-fifth the power. It costs less than $1 per year to keep a smartphone charged, for example. assuming you charge it once per day.

Basically, we need a new energy model; one that is not mired in 19th Century thinking, which is the problem with the Republican Party. “Drill, Baby Drill” is not only stupid for the environment, it’s stupid economically. We can’t produce enough oil to reduce costs, and it will run out at some point, especially as the Chinese and Indian economies continue to boom. Prices will never again go down, and we can’t allow the Republicans to drag us into thinking they will.

We have to think differently, and the Republican Party is incapable of that. Our goal must be a complete departure from the way we do things now. Solar panels on every roof, and much smaller power plants for those who live in areas where solar panels on roofs is not practical. Energy consumption is an individual exercise, so energy production should be, as well, at least where possible. Start with rural areas. Each farm should produce its own electricity, via solar and wind power, and sell excess power to those plants instead? Why does it make sense to allow developers to plop down a few thousand houses in the Arizona desert, and force everyone else in the region to accommodate their power needs? Doesn’t it make more sense to integrate energy production into each developments? Large power plants should only be used in densely populated areas, like Manhattan, and supplemented by the excess production of the smaller plants in the suburbs and rural areas.

We have to change our goals; that much is clear. We have to harness the energy the earth and sun provide, and then focus like a laser on the most efficient use of power possible. We have to start thinking smaller; the United States should become a pioneer in small, localized energy production. If we don’t do it, someone else will. Did you know, for example, that China and India (not to mention most of Europe, Japan and Australia) are already way ahead of us in transitioning to a natural power structure? How does that feel? Republicans love it, because it makes their financiers in the fossil fuel industries happy.

The internal combustion engine has outlived its usefulness. Relying on that technology would be like New Yorkers demanding to hold onto their horses back in the 1920s. Forget the lame “market forces” arguments. People want electric vehicles. They want everything to be cleaner. They want to use less electricity and watch their bills shrink. And god knows, this country needs a manufacturing renaissance. If we transition to a green energy infrastructure, someone has to build everything, after all. And you have two clear choices; Democrats are willing to invest in the future, and Republicans refuse to invest in anything but the past.

The future is now, but not with the GOP in charge.

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